Ambassador Dubs in Afghanistan holding flag
“I would rather sacrifice my life…”
“I would rather sacrifice my life…” 1024 750
Letter from Ambassador Adolph Dubs to his daughter Lindsay March 3, 1973. This letter was donated to the Diplomacy Center from Letter from Lindsay in 2018.

Letter from Ambassador Adolph Dubs to his daughter Lindsay March 3, 1973. This letter was donated to the Diplomacy Center collection from Lindsay in 2018.

Adolph “Spike” Dubs was a career Foreign Service Officer and noted Soviet expert. In 1973-74 he served as charge d’affaires at Embassy Moscow, and in 1978, he was appointed U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan.

On February 14, 1979, Ambassador Dubs and his driver were stopped in their car by armed militants posing as police. They overpowered both of them and forced the driver to take them to the downtown Kabul Hotel. There they held Ambassador Dubs at gunpoint and demanded the release of a political prisoner. Despite pleas from U.S. officials to keep the situation as calm as possible while they tried to negotiate the ambassador’s release, Afghan and accompanying Soviet officials hastily mounted a heavily armed rescue attempt. Ambassador Dubs was assassinated during the attempted rescue. The exact identity and motive of these kidnappers still remains a mystery.

Ambassador Dubs was a prolific letter writer during his diplomatic career. He kept in close contact with his daughter Lindsay who was in her 20s during this time. He opened his correspondence with “My Dearest Lindsay,” and relayed details of his official duties, conversations, and trips to local sites. He also dispensed fatherly advice, concern, and encouragement – all communicating how much he loved and missed her.

Six years prior to Dubs’ assassination, U.S. Ambassador to Sudan Cleo Noel was kidnapped and assassinated by a terrorist group. Ambassador Dubs wrote to Lindsay on March 3, 1973, and included his thoughts about this tragedy. His words sadly predicted the same situation in which he would find himself in Kabul. He wrote:

…we cannot afford to give in to the ransom demands made by thugs who direct such organizations as the Black September Group. I personally don’t like to think of being any kind of a martyr; but if I were ever taken in a situation such as that which occurred in Khartoum, I would want Washington to understand that I would rather sacrifice my life than to have someone capitulate to the demands of terrorists.

The next time a U.S. ambassador was killed at post was in 2012, with the death of Ambassador Christopher Stevens in Benghazi, Libya. Read the full letter in high resolution or learn about contributing to the collection.

Instructor discusses with middle school students
Students Inspired to Become Diplomats
Students Inspired to Become Diplomats 640 427

Over the past year, the Diplomacy Center has expanded its Diplomacy Simulation Program to the middle school level, piloting programs in the Washington, D.C. area. Students in grades six through eight have proved more than up to the challenge of learning about diplomacy! Middle schoolers in history and global studies classes from Stuart-Hobson Middle School, The Langley School, Hart Middle School, and the Congressional School have enjoyed stepping into the role of diplomat to learn about the world of foreign affairs. The Diplomacy Center Simulation Program helps them develop 21st century skills such as negotiating and finding common ground, helping them to prepare for success in today’s global economy. As one parent enthusiastically wrote, “Thank you so much for hosting…the Langley 8th graders. [My daughter] came home extremely excited about the experience. She told me her dream is to get a job at the State Department!”

Take a look at the Diplomacy Center’s free class materials or video walk-throughs.

A young H.W. Bush with Nixon at his side swears over the Bible
In Memoriam: George Herbert Walker Bush (1924-2018): Veteran, Statesman, Diplomat
In Memoriam: George Herbert Walker Bush (1924-2018): Veteran, Statesman, Diplomat 1024 708

On November 30, 2018 former President George Herbert Walker Bush died at age 94. A distinguished Navy pilot in World War II, former President Bush lived an accomplished life, serving his nation in various capacities, including: President, Vice President, Director of the Central Investigative Agency, Member of both the House and Senate, and as a diplomat, serving as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and Head of U.S. Liaison Office in China. In addition to serving his nation, Bush was a businessman and humanitarian.

In George W. Bush’s “41: A Portrait of My Father,” the former president remembers his father’s incredible sense of connecting with people. Uncommon during the time, H.W. Bush made personal courtesy calls on fellow ambassadors in New York—practicing person-to-person diplomacy and building relationships that proved essential during his presidency. “He was down to earth and direct,” his son remembers, “and people liked him for it.”

George H.W. Bush signs a piece of the Berlin Wall

Today, the United States Diplomacy Center in Washington, D.C. is home to the Signature Segment of the Berlin Wall. This 13-foot high, nearly three ton piece of the wall has been signed by 27 leaders who played a significant role in advancing German reunification. They include U.S. President George H. W. Bush, U.S. Secretary of State James Baker, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev, and Polish labor union leader and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Lech Walesa, among others. Leipzig artist Michael Fischer-Art painted this segment, depicting protesters during that city’s own “Peaceful Revolution” demonstrations in 1988-89. Fischer-Art had created many of the original banners protesters carried as they chanted, “Wir sind das Volk” (“We are the People”), “Freiheit” (“Freedom”), and other pro-democracy messages.

Inaugurated as President of the United States in January 1989, Bush entered office at a period of change in the world; the fall of the Berlin Wall came early in his presidency, and the collapse of the Soviet Union came in 1991.  Looking back, former Secretary of State James Baker commented, “one of President Bush’s outstanding traits has been his humility, and particularly his insistence after the Iron Curtain fell that Americans not gloat about our victory in the decades-long Cold War against the Soviet empire. In 1989, after all, the president still had further business to do with Soviet leaders even as their country was rapidly imploding.  Included on his checklist were nuclear arms reductions, which were later accomplished and have played a critical role in maintaining world peace.” Baker, who was in office when the wall came down in 1989, added: “Time and again, President Bush demanded that we not dance on the ruins of the Berlin Wall. He simply wouldn’t hear of it.”

His previous diplomatic experience as the Ambassador to the United Nations came in handy when, as president, he received word that Iraqi forces had crossed into Kuwait. In the first five days after the invasion, Bush personally telephoned international leaders on at least forty-eight occasions—from the White House, while in-flight aboard Air Force One (where he called King Hussein of Jordan and President Mubarak of Egypt on the first day of the crisis), and from Camp David. Bush also immediately called Thomas Pickering, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. He instructed Pickering that he wanted the United Nations to respond swiftly to the invasion. From the outset, Bush viewed the crisis not as a regional Arab-to-Arab dispute, but as something larger. Bush “was keenly aware that this would be the first post–Cold War test of the Security Council in crisis.” While most U.S. presidents had warily turned to the United Nations in an international crisis, Bush’s immediate call to the United Nations paid dividends. On the day of the invasion, the U.N. Security Council passed resolution 660 by a 14–0 vote, demanding that Iraq withdraw from Kuwait. Significantly, the Soviet Union and China did not veto the resolution despite the fact that Iraq had been an ally and a recipient of Soviet military aid in the past. Bush’s decision to involve the United Nations served as a foundation for his strategy of “coercive diplomacy” — using limited force as a negotiating tactic — over the next five months. Having served as U.N. ambassador meant that he understood both the institution’s limits and strengths and had confidence in its diplomatic mechanisms.

On a lighter note, Bush was known as the “Original Sock Diplomat.”  Bush has an assortment of colorful, graphic pairs suited to every occasion. He wore red, white and blue striped numbers to the White House for the unveiling of his son’s official portrait in 2012; Bill Clinton socks to a meeting with Mr. Clinton; and socks from a company started by a man with Down Syndrome on World Down Syndrome Day. Often, the 41st president tweeted about his socks. His affinity for them became even more obvious after he began to use a wheelchair, as his ankles were exposed. He was laid to rest in gray socks patterned with fighter planes flying in formation, and it’s not just because of his service as a naval aviator. It was because, as he wrote of himself in a 2014 fundraising email for the Republican National Committee, “I’m a self-proclaimed sock man. The louder, the brighter, the crazier the pattern — the better.” The week of his passing, a veritable outpouring of creative hosiery appeared on social media and on the streets and in schools, all in honor of Mr. Bush, himself a famous practitioner of the art of sock diplomacy. Business owners encouraged employees to wear socks with lighthearted designs, students were urged to get creative, and a hashtag was created, #SocksforBush.

In this piece, the Diplomacy Center honors former President Bush’s service to the nation and the world.

Seal in the Diplomacy Center Pavilion
A Century of Service – US Diplomatic Courier Services turns 100
A Century of Service – US Diplomatic Courier Services turns 100 640 427

The United States Diplomacy Center is honored to celebrate the centennial anniversary of the Diplomatic Courier Service with a new exhibit, “100 Years of Diplomatic Couriers—None Swifter than These,” on display from Oct 31, 2018 through February 3, 2019.

In 1918, General John J. “Black Jack” Pershing authorized U.S. Army Major Amos J. Peaslee to organize a wartime courier service to expedite mail between the U.S. embassy in Paris and Washington. General Peaslee’s “Silver Greyhounds,” denoted by the greyhound patch on their uniforms, were formally assigned that same year to the U.S. Department of State. The Silver greyhounds became the first U.S. organization dedicated to transport of diplomatic pouches and thus the Diplomatic Courier Service (DCS) was born.

Today, diplomatic couriers spend tens of thousands of hours annually delivering tens of millions of pounds of classified material by air, sea, and land to more than 275 U.S. diplomatic missions around the world. The famous orange pouches have been featured in Hollywood movies and can range from confidential documents to hi-tech devices or even construction equipment.

The exhibits features items used throughout the history of the DCS and how that mission has evolved over the years to keep ahead of evolving threats of espionage, terror, and even bad weather.  Also on display are bugging devices, such as the one found in the Great Seal of the United States at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow which resulted in a shift in the diplomatic courier mission—from carrying confidential messages, to also transporting construction and other materials for secure areas in U.S. embassies. 

Items on display were provided by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, working in collaboration with the US Diplomacy Center. The exhibit represents the State Department’s commitment to highlight the efforts and mission of the Diplomatic Courier Service, whose essential work supports and ensures the safety and integrity of employees and resources in US missions all over the World.

For more information on the the Courier Service and the Bureau of Diplomatic Security:


Celebrating 20 Years of U.S.-Slovenian Collaboration on Humanitarian Demining Efforts
Celebrating 20 Years of U.S.-Slovenian Collaboration on Humanitarian Demining Efforts 150 150

On September 28th, the Embassy of Slovenia and the Diplomacy Center celebrated 20 years of American support for the Slovenian government-led nonprofit organization ITF Enhancing Human Security (ITF). ITF is dedicated to reducing threats from landmines and other explosive remnants of war and to facilitating safety and long-term development in conflict-affected communities.

President Borut Pahor of Slovenia, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Elisabeth Millard gave remarks followed by a reception. The event was accompanied by a photo exhibit of ITF’s work around the world displayed in the Diplomacy Center from September 24 through October 1.

ITF was formed in 1998 to help Bosnia and Herzegovina implement the Dayton Peace Agreement.  Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former Slovenian Foreign Minister Boris Frlec agreed to its establishment as a key component of the peace settlement, placing the war torn region on the road to recovery by clearing landmines and assisting landmine survivors in the wake of the 1992-1995 Bosnian War.

With the early support of the United States, ITF has grown over the past 20 years to operate in 31 countries around the world, clearing of more than 139 million square meters of mine-affected land, protecting civilians in fragile and recovering states, and opening a path to stability and prosperity.

Women present their project at ImpactHack
ImpactHack 2018
ImpactHack 2018 640 427

Visualizing Diplomacy, Development, and the Environment

On September 21 and 22, 2018, the United States Diplomacy Center and World Resources Institute partnered to host ImpactHack, a data visualization hackathon in Washington D.C. Sixteen teams competed to demonstrate diplomacy’s impact, from local state economies to global issues, using their coding and design skills. Amazon Web Services was the Title Sponsor and generously donated their time, technology, and expertise to managing the hackathon. Promising projects from this hackathon will be used to develop Diplomacy Center exhibit prototypes.

Four winners stand after award

Taylor Funk, Brianna McGowan, Chaudhry Talha and Alex Cohen stand with Diplomacy Center host Kelsey Cvach after winning first place for their project My State, My State Department. “I would love to be involved in future citizen diplomacy. I always wanted to be a diplomat and even wanted to join the foreign service,” said Alex Cohen.

My State, My State Department

In September, Amazon Web Services sponsored ImpackHack 2018 hosted by the United States Diplomacy Center and World Resources Institute, where teams competed against one another innovating creative ways to highlight the impact of diplomacy.  Alex Cohen (Maryland), Taylor Funk (Virginia), Brianna McGowan (Maryland), and Chaudhry Talha (District of Columbia) created the winning project, My State, My State Department.  The team created an interactive map and game that connects the work of American diplomacy with its impact on local communities across the U.S. The map allowed users to explore the benefits of real diplomatic negotiations to regional U.S. interests. McGowen describes, “After about two hours of brainstorming, my team knew we wanted to gamify state by state diplomacy and make it fun to interact with, learning not only the significance of diplomacy, but also increasing knowledge on the importance of the State Department and the impressive work they do.”

The My State, My State Department team is all the more remarkable because they had just met each other at the opening event. They are excited about the possibility that their project could be used in the future Diplomacy Center museum.

Data Ambassadors
Map with Embassies appearing over time

An interactive timeline of diplomacy data visualization app that helps visitors to understand American diplomacy and history events through time. User may scroll the interactive globe around and click the embassy for more information. User may also press a play button to animate the embassy establishment and closure chronologically. The app also highlights major history events in the animation.

The second place project, Data Ambassadors, demonstrated America’s diplomatic growth over time through an interactive map. The map included the context of historical events and a clickable timeline spanning the birth of the United States to current day. This team, consisting of Aaron Corso, Jeff Hale, Jessica Martin, and Chia-Hua Peng, also met at the opening event. Jessica plans to work with the Diplomacy Center to continue building out the project. She reports: “I am working on polishing it and adding final features. This isn’t something that has been done before.”

Another teammate, Aaron Corso, notes “Tech and data visualizations in particular, democratize diplomacy. Living in the DC area makes you more acutely aware of the activities of diplomats, but for someone living in the midwest, they may not have the constant exposure or awareness. The projects at this hackathon showed great promise in how we can raise awareness of how American diplomacy affects everyone by putting you in the driver’s seat.”

Global Movement

The third place project, Global Movement, addressed the factors that may relate to refugee rates, including a country’s relative freedom. This high school team, including Kashyap Murali, Aditya Patil, Krishnan Ram, and Jinal Shah, had driven down from New Jersey to participate in the hackathon after winning a travel sponsorship for their diplomatic relationship simulator in another hackathon in May. Several intend to apply for internships at the State Department in the future.

Special Prize: Most likely to be Published

Alice Feng won the special category award, “Most likely to be Published” with her project. She used data and graphics to tell an immersive story of the Paris Agreement, which was a landmark in terms of how many countries signed on in a short time. She used data visualizations show how the rapid adoption of the Paris Agreement stands out relative to other agreements, and then moved on to explore what impact this agreement will have, if any, on trying to stop the forces of climate change.

“I feel technology can play an important role in American diplomacy, whether by using it to educate citizens about our diplomatic efforts or as a way for us to learn more about and build stronger relationships with other cultures. I hope to participate in more opportunities to use data visualization to tell stories about the impact of international collaboration,” Alice Feng said.

The United States Diplomacy Center utilizes technology to understand the impact of diplomacy on international cooperation and its impact on the every day lives of Americans.

Women present their project at ImpactHack

About ImpactHack

ImpactHack took place over the course of forty hours in two locations. The kickoff launched at the Diplomacy Center with remarks from Mary Kane, the Diplomacy Center’s director, Janet Ranganathan, World Resources Institute’s VP of Climate and Research, and Mark Smith of the hackathon’s Title Sponsor, Amazon Web Services. Participants met mentors, formed groups and began projects. After a full day of guided designing, coding, and testing at World Resources Institute, groups presented their projects. While judges made final decision, Joe Dooley, policy manager at Google, spoke about the importance of open data and higher education in STEM. The $3,000 in prizes were announced and projects published for continued development.

The United States Diplomacy Center will be the first museum and education center to tell the story of the history, practice, and challenges of American diplomacy. Through exhibitions and programs, the Center will inspire the American public to discover diplomacy and how it impacts their lives every day.

The World Resources Institute is a global research organization that spans more than 60 countries. Their more than 700 experts and staff work closely with leaders to turn big ideas into action to sustain Earth’s natural resources—the foundation of economic opportunity and human well-being.

Subscribe to learn about our upcoming programs or check out our other past events.

These are a few objects of condolence sent from around the world including South Africa and Australia.
Honoring the Victims of September 11, 2001
Honoring the Victims of September 11, 2001 1024 676

On September 10, Secretary Pompeo visited the U.S. Diplomacy Center’s September 11 exhibit remembering the lives that were taken during the terrorist attacks and the survivors and first responders with lasting injuries or health complications. The exhibit features displays of condolence material from its collection that represents the outpouring of support felt worldwide after the attacks. The anniversary of September 11, 2001, also honors the heroes who rushed into the darkness to save lives and commemorates the contributions and duties of all public servants who keep America safe. The display is up through Friday, September 14, in the Diplomacy Center pavilion for internal staff and official visitors.

After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, U.S. embassies and consulates received condolence material such as flowers, candles, personal notes, drawings, and trinkets of all types to let U.S. citizens know that they were not alone in their pain. Many of these items were shipped to the Department of State in Washington, and now are included in the collections of the Diplomacy Center. This condolence material represents an unwavering support for Americans in their time of need and a global repudiation of terrorism.

Specific examples from the collection include:

  • Students at Norwood School, Johannesburg, South Africa, sent a spiral bound booklet of colorful drawings and encouraging notes to the U.S. consulate.
  • Firefighters from the New South Wales Rural Fire Service offered a helmet with heartfelt inscriptions to the U.S. consulate in Sydney, Australia.
  • Schoolchildren in Japan created extensive chains of origami swans as symbols of peace.
  • A U.S. embassy is a powerful symbol. The building and the dedicated people who work there represent American values and a commitment to the rule of law.
  • Embassies are often targets as terrorists unsuccessfully attempt to silence our calls for freedom or halt the work of our nation, as we saw 3 years earlier on August 7, 1998, in Kenya and Tanzania.
  • Embassies are also places to mourn where citizens worldwide gather there to show respect and solidarity with the American people in the face of tragedy, and play a part in national and international healing.
Global Issues
Global Issues 150 150

What do a fire helmet, a missile launcher, and a Carnival costume have to do with diplomacy?

Each of these items represents a global issue that shapes the practice of diplomacy today. U.S. diplomats serve our nation by securing peace, increasing prosperity, promoting democracy, and sustaining development efforts worldwide, benefiting Americans at home. In practice, their efforts take many forms, involve many people, and can be surprising.

This yellow fire helmet represents an important life-saving partnership between the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Los Angeles County Fire Department (LACoFD). LACoFD’s Urban Search and Rescue Team serves with distinction as one of two departments in the U.S. trained and authorized to deploy with USAID disaster response teams to international crises. Notably, they assist with the search and rescue of survivors after powerful earthquakes, such as in Nepal in 2015 and Mexico in 2017. The team also provides training and equipment for local first responders. By providing emergency life-saving assistance, the United States helps these nations back to a path to recovery and stability.

This inert SA7 model of a Man Portable Air Defense System (MANPADS) is an example of a type of conventional weapon removed under programs funded by the U.S. Department of State. These programs support foreign governments’ efforts to remove, secure, and/or destroy these weapons that threaten the health and security of their citizens. These efforts counter the illicit proliferation and use of MANPADS. In the hands of terrorists, criminals, or other non-state actors, MANPADS pose a serious threat to commercial and military aircraft around the world.

In 2017, U.S. Consulate General Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, invited dancer and Paralympian Amy Purdy to represent the U.S. as a cultural envoy during the annual Carnival celebrations. Amy is a double amputee who danced in the opening of the Paralympics, won a snowboarding bronze in 2014, was a runner up in Dancing with the Stars, and is a well-respected motivational speaker. She participated in the U.S. Consulate General Rio’s partnership with the samba school Unidos da Tijuca. Amy promoted the shared U.S.-Brazilian musical heritage and messages focused on disability rights and women’s empowerment. Amy’s rhinestone studded costume was the first-ever designed for a double-amputee athlete/dancer during Carnival.

The Department of State sends American arts professionals, known as cultural envoys, around the world to U.S. embassies and consulates to perform or run workshops in their areas of expertise — including dance, drama, visual art, poetry, literature, film, and more.

#AskACurator 150 150

Ever wonder what kind objects we use to tell the story of American diplomacy at the U.S. Diplomacy Center?

Don’t wonder, ask our curator! For the first time in our museum’s history, we’ll be answering your questions about our collection. Between 9:00 AM – 4:30 PM EDT on September 12, 2018, tweet us questions about the only museum collection dedicated to telling the story of American diplomacy. Our Directory Mary Kane, Associate Curator Kathryn Speckart, and Public Historian Dr. Alison Mann will be on hand to answer your questions. Initiated on Twitter in 2010, Ask a Curator Day is a worldwide Q&A that now has over 1,500 participating museums from 58 countries, is taking place. Tweet us at @DiplomacyCenter and use the #AskaCurator to participate! Or dive in right away!

Exhibit Testing
Exhibit Testing 150 150

On July 31, 2018, the United States Diplomacy Center made its second visit to the National Museum of American History’s Spark!Lab to test content for its future exhibits. Museum visitors viewed four historical and current stories of American diplomacy and were invited to participate in a word association exercise. Over 500 visitors walked through exhibit and almost 250 surveys were taken. Of note:

  • Over 95% of visitors indicated foreign initiatives of development, democracy, and security are very important to the United States’ domestic economy and security.
  • There was strong belief that promoting free speech in other countries is important to the United States interest.
  • A strong majority of participants saw diplomacy as “very important” to their home state. However, a handful of visitors did not see a connection between diplomacy and the prosperity of their  home states. Understood in conjunction with the other data, this indicates visitors feel American diplomacy is important to the nation has a whole but less so to the economy of his or her particular region.
  • Visitors had some knowledge of current events related to State Department, good understanding of Consular Affairs, and the Department’s range of impact, but were confused in how it relates to military operations.

These strong emotional responses are a positive sign for the enthusiasm of our core themes and interest in American diplomacy and its impact. The exhibits that we tested are currently being developed in partnership with Smithsonian. The exhibit is scheduled to be installed in the United States Diplomacy Center Pavilion in late 2019.

See testing of Faces of Diplomacy exhibit.